Glamorous, down-to-earth leading lady Suzanne Pleshette was the daughter of the managing director of Brooklyn's Paramount Theater. She attended Performing Arts High School, Finch College, and Syracuse University. After some TV experience, she made her film debut in Jerry Lewis' The Geisha Boy (1958), then went on to replace Anne Bancroft as star of Broadway's The Miracle Worker. During her years at Warner Bros., Pleshette successfully avoided simpering ingénue roles, holding out for parts requiring beyond-her-years emotional depth. Her flair for comedy was delightfully tapped during her subsequent tenure with Disney in such films as The Ugly Dachsund (1967) and The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1968). Pleshette's film work, however, has never struck so responsive a chord with the fans as her television work, notably her portrayal of Emily Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978) -- a role that she briefly and hilariously reprised on the very last episode of Newhart's subsequent series, Newhart. She then starred in several short-lived TV series, including Maggie Briggs (1984), Bridges to Cross (1986), and The Boys Are Back (1994), and was also a ubiquitous presence in such made-for-TV movies as Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean. And yes: Incredible as it may seem, Suzanne Pleshette was once married to Troy Donahue. Pleshette died of respiratory failure in January 2008.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Her mother was a dancer who performed under the stage name Geraldine Rivers; her father once served as vice president of ABC TV.
- Made her film debut in the 1958 Jerry Lewis comedy The Geisha Boy.
- Third husband Tom Poston first romanced her when they appeared together in the 1959 Broadway production of The Golden Fleecing. In the 1970s, they crossed paths when he made guest appearances on her CBS sitcom The Bob Newhart Show. Both widowed, they reunited in 2000.
- In 1961, she replaced Anne Bancroft in the Broadway production of The Miracle Worker.
- Breakout film role came as the ill-fated schoolteacher in Alfred Hitchcock's classic The Birds (1963).
- In 2002, the producers of NBC's Will & Grace recruited her for a recurring role as Karen Walker's estranged mother on the hit series; they later cast her as a grandmother in their short-lived NBC sitcom Good Morning, Miami.
- At her funeral, her pallbearers were six of her closest female friends, including Tina Sinatra.